Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Short Film Review: Damn Your Eyes

Frankly, My Dear, I Give A Damn (*Spoilers*)

      I hate to pull a Ruben Studdard with what will be a litany of "I'm Sorry For's," but I must apologize for my four-millionth GWH reference. Just as Will Hunting steals Sean Maguire's great line, "I have to go see about a girl," I too have to steal an infinitely more famous line to properly title my review. Also, I'm sincerely sorry to all the Clark Gable enthusiasts (I'm certainly one of them). And I apologize for the anachronistic usage (I mean, it's not like I'm directing Your Highness). If you drop me like a bad habit and stop reading from this point forward (please don't because this short film deserves your attention), I'd understand. I'm sorry, but the power of the banner compels me.
      All kidding aside, in order to give this short film gem, which I've recently discovered, its due treatment, I had to reference the past. Why you ask? Well, quite simply, David Guglielmo's debut Damn Your Eyes marries elements of past films in such a wonderful fashion, most strikingly, Sergio Leone's and Sergio Corbucci's spaghetti westerns, that my review, absent of any reference, would drastically fail to match this spirit; a spirit that is, quite splendidly, an homage to smart and inventive filmmaking. After all, Guglielmo's film deftly captures what's great about cinema's marvelous history on a minuscule $5000 budget.  

      Guglielmo proves he's the owner of a dual competency, illustrating an expertise behind the camera and on the paper. His direction and script, equally remarkable, work in perfect harmony. The roughly 20-minute short begins when a mysterious fella (Jakob Von Eichel)—all tattered in ragtag threads with a black hat covering his eyes—walks into a rundown saloon. He promptly orders a glass of goat's milk (and no, this ain't the beginning of another lame bar joke). The sharp witted, portly bartender (Daniel Angus Cox) immediately takes up an adversarial stance with this goat's milk loving (incidentally, rhymes with McLovin) stranger, as he quips, "wouldn't wanna aspire to be no drunk like us folks here." The bartender's suspicion of malice is perhaps a condition of prior experiences—not to mention, the reprehension of running a bar that plainly operates as a downtrodden brothel. The reproachable bartender questions the patron's arrival. And in a matter of moments, all hell breaks loose. The black hat wearing mystery man—the name's Sam—gets to shooting. And it's not shooting for the sake of mayhem; he's got a motive. He's looking for a man by the name of Scott (Angelo Angrisani). The bloody exchange, which involves more than a few violent clashes, persists for a bit. 

      Once the bloody melee reaches a conclusion, one of the bar's resident prostitutes—an equally mysterious woman named Louisa (Marisa Costa)—tends to Sam while Dennis (Ray Reynolds), the town's lawman, pledges his own personal mission. Familiar with Sam's intemperate affection for killing, Dennis will attempt to put an end to his ferocious vendetta. Meanwhile, Guglielmo employs some fancy camera work to shield us from Sam's gaping eye sore, though this doesn't last too long. After a little Sam and Louisa bonding time, we jump to the first flashback sequence, which is starkly reminiscent of the classic beginning in The Searchers. A villainous gang raids a young-Sam's family home, where he witnesses the brutal massacre of his Mother and Father. We jump back to present time. At this point, Louisa begins to more outwardly morph into the classic western trope, in which the feminine guardian laboriously shepherds the dark and courageous protagonist, whom she calls, The Man with No Eyes. After another round of flashbacks & Louisa and Sam bonding time—featuring some intense imagery along with a taciturn, clammed up Sam—Guglielmo leads us back to the final flashback. It's a Good Will Hunting-esque moment—the whole, "it's not your fault" routine—followed by the film's closing, which leaves us with a Star Wars style cliffhanger. The Man with No Eyes may be on a relentless hunt to exact vengeance upon his parent's murderer, but lest he know, this vile nemesis is actually...his Father.
      Guglielmo's direction, aside from his overtures to some of film's greatest treasures, is a crisp and refreshing effort. His cinematic influences are obvious, but he handles these conspicuous elements with great care and precision. And most importantly, despite the obvious influence of stylized genre, he muscles his own stamp. In this respect, it would be fair to say that Guglielmo's directorial oeuvre is very Tarantino-esque, for he incorporates elements of past auteurs, but executes these elements in a distinct and original manner. For example, there's a very sincere Robert Rodriguez circa Desperado feel to the budding relationship between Sam and Louisa. But their relationship is never cemented or confirmed. We're left with the remnants of a woman's calls, never once heeded, for honest companionship.
      Quentin Tarantino, whose films reflect vast influences from Kurosawa to Peckinpah, executes his companion style in dynamic ways. And similarly, Guglielmo illustrates his profound influence of spaghetti westerns, but through varying scales of execution. The opening title, which crash lands on screen, is reminiscent of some exploitative films from the 70's and many classic westerns. But the idea of the lone cowboy carrying a secret physical abnormality, which speaks to the film's title, is quite different; not to mention, the whole subtle examination of the Oedipal complex. 

*My affinity for spaghetti westerns can never be satiated. 

      Damn Your Eyes is a ravishing compilation of cinema. Guglielmo's film is composed in a deluxe peculiarity, marked by both a rugged visual style and a blistering narrative. The architecture beautifully blends the mechanisms of influence and inception. Like any inspired work of art, Guglielmo's short is defined by, what I term, symmetry of dissemblance. Such a bold statement may seem contradictory, but in actuality, it's quite illuminating. Guglielmo's nuanced short, with its preponderance of spaghetti western influence, is a fundamental adjustment of homogeneity.  Damn Your Eyes is the end result of stupendous direction, ingenious editing, piercing music—which calls to memory, Once Upon A Time In The West—fine acting, and exquisite dialogue. Something tells me Tarantino would really love it. Well, I did! Maybe, when the feature production ratchets up, you can toss a small part my way! 

9 out of 10

DAMN YOUR EYES from David Guglielmo on Vimeo.

*One of the funniest quotes from the biting dialogue: "at least someone got to blow their load today."
  • Damn Your Eyes is the winner of Best Student Film at Royal Flush Festival '09 and Best More Than Horror Short at Buffalo Screams Horror Festival '10. 
  • The beautifully rendered cinematography was coordinated by Alex Chinnici while the enriching sound arrangement was composed from the combined forces of John Larkin and David Leaver.  
  • Guglielmo and his crew filmed the short in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
  • Currently, under the stewardship of David, his Producer, and DP, a feature-length version is in pre-production! Along with being enormously hopeful about this feature's potential for excellence, I must also send David my sincerest congratulations!


  1. I'm purposefully not reading this review yet because I don't want to be spoiled, but all I needed was that poster and your introduction and I've suddenly got yet another movie to add to my list! This looks completely spaghetti western bamf and I need it in my life!

  2. I've found a new film to feed my passion for the spaghetti western. I love that line "at least someone got to blow their load today." Dialogue like that is guaranteed to make me see this film. Thanks for the awesome recommendation.

  3. Dude, that's not a short review at all... but it's a brilliant one ;) I'm not a big fan of westerns so I'll probably skip this one, though it sounds quite promising. Thanks for the review, Matty.

  4. I'll have to poke around to find a good list of movies. Living in a foreign country, it can be hard to find good films to watch! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  5. @ M.

    Yeah, that's probably the best decision. It's only a 20-minute long short film (the video is right below my review). Check it out when you get a chance. It's totally BAMF!

    @ Melissa

    How'd I know you'd like that quote? The dialogue, from beginning to end, is quite good. This film will definitely make you long for spaghettie westerns again!

  6. @ Nebular

    Haha thanks! The review is not meant to be "short," as I go through my standard comprehensive breakdown. But the film is "short," as it only requires 20 minutes of our time! Check it out when you get a chance, as the video is embedded right below my score.

    @ Alison

    You're welcome! This is definitely a good film you won't have to "poke" around to see. Just watch it from my blog! Though, in general, I sympathize with you. As a movie lover, I demand instant access to my favorites!